I’ve had 3 favorite books throughout my life that I can remember. Currently it’s Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. Before that, it was Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.
The first book that I can remember calling my favorite was Hatchet by Gary paulsen.
It had probably been 20 years since I read Hatchet last, so I decided it was time to open it up again. Sadly, I can now see that it’s not really that great of a book.
Hatchet is the story of a 13-year-old boy named Brian, who – while on a plane ride to visit his dad – ends up crashing in middle-of-nowhere Canada. All Brian has with him after the crash is a hatchet he was given by his mom prior to the trip and a few other odds and ends.
As a child, this book was everything to me. I remember asking for (and I believe receiving) a hatchet as a birthday or Christmas gift. I don’t even know what I planned on doing with it. I just wanted to be like Brian.
I remember how exciting it was to imagine being alone in the wild and needing to learn how to survive. Apparently I was so distracted by the adventure that I didn’t notice how bad the writing was. Seriously, it’s not that great
The writing is incredibly repetitive. It feels almost like Paulsen wrote paragraphs full of different variations of the same sentence, thinking he would come back and remove all but the best one, and then decided to keep them all.
Picture Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove talking about Kuzco’s poison.
Here’s an actual paragraph from the book:
“He had to fly it somehow. Had to fly the plane. He had to help himself. The pilot was gone, beyond anything he could do. He had to try and fly the plane.”
Did you, Brian? Did you have to fly the plane? Did you have to fly it somehow? Did you have to try to fly the plane?
Some people try to defend the writing by claiming that it’s written from the perspective of a 13-year-old boy. Why wouldn’t his mind be racing?
But he’s not the narrator. The book is written from a third-person omniscient perspective, which means that, while the narrator knows Brian’s thoughts, the narrator isn’t Brian.
Some might say that, because the narrator knows Brian’s thoughts, it counts as his perspective. But I disagree.
Anyway, I can at least understand why I enjoyed the book so much when I was young. The adventure is fun to read about as a kid, and I’m still going to keep Hatchet on the book shelf for my children to read. But once you start appreciating books for the writing, and not just for the plot, it loses a lot of its appeal.